Con Report: ICFA 38 (2017)

Hello, all! We’re back from ICFA 38, and still recovering. I thought I’d just give y’all a quick overview of how the con went while it’s all still relatively fresh in my mind.

We arrived Wednesday of last week after a very long day. My flight left Austin at 5:35 AM, and Shannon’s flight left even earlier. I had an empty seat next me on both my flights, so that was pretty great. I also got to read a lot of A Closed and Common Orbit, which I really enjoyed, so the travel overall was pretty great (besides having to get up so early…).

In the evening, we signed in, checked out the free table, and attended the opening ceremonies, then went back to our rooms to rest and plan out which panels we would go to for the rest of the week. I saw a name I was not expecting for one panel on Thursday, and got rather excited. More on this later.

Thursday morning, I was up bright and early and went down to work out. The hotel had a really nice workout room, and after, we hit up the cafe in the hotel for breakfast. I wandered off to some very interesting panels. The first one I went to had one presenter who talked about a novel where everyone is an amputee, and one of the amputees kills all of the other amputees. One of the other presenters rewrote her paper at 4 AM that morning and ended up talking about problematic themes in paranormal romance novels (Read: paranormal erotica). Like I said, it was… Interesting.

After a quick lunch, Shannon presented at the first panel in the afternoon. Despite a relatively small crowd, I thought the presentation went really well.

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Shannon was exhausted after this, quite understandably, so I went off to my next panel alone, with some trepidation. This was the panel I was excited about, if the name I read was the correct name, and if it was who I hoped it was. The subject of the panel was defining “epic fantasy”, which I already knew was going to be a fairly futile endeavor, because everyone has their own opinions on what defines genres, but the discussion was still lively.

And the person I was wondering about, the person on the program who I wasn’t expecting to be at the con at all, showed up. He was who I thought he was.

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On the left there is some dude named Brian Staveley. He’s one of my top 5 favorite authors, and the only one I hadn’t met yet. (I finally got to see V. E. Schwab in Austin at the beginning of March! Woo!) So, uh… Understandably, I was a little excited.

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I was even more excited when I went up to talk to him after the panel and he recognized me. Me. A fan he had never met in person, and he knew who I was. It was surreally awesome, and definitely made my week.

I think there was dinner and stuff after. I can’t quite remember, because I kinda had my head in the clouds for the rest of the evening.

Friday started off with more exercise. Seriously, it feels so good to work out early in the morning. You’re more awake and active for the rest of the day, and I love it.

The first event was a Steven Erikson signing. (I know I went to other signings at various times, but I had the most books for Erikson, so that’s the one I remember.) I had started the first Malazan book at the beginning of this year before the train that was Oathbringer hit me, and I was really enjoying it, and expect to love the series as a whole, so I was excited to meet Erikson and have him sign my copies of his series.

There was a free luncheon on Friday, where they gave out some really cool free books. Tip for if you ever go to ICFA: Go to all the luncheons and dinners. It’s worth it for the food. It’s also worth it for the books. Combined, it’s *really* worth it, and I wish I’d known ahead of time to sign up for the Thursday luncheon as well.

I know I went to several panels on Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and other such literary things, but they’re all kind of blending together by now. A lot of the papers presented were really interesting, so it was definitely worth going, though!

In the afternoon, I attended a reading with Nick Mamatas, John Chu, and Fran Wilde. All of the readings were excellent. Chu read part of a short story he’ll have in an upcoming magazine, and Wilde read all of her own story. I was really glad I went, and kinda wish I’d made time to see some of the other readings earlier in the week.

That night was the flash play section. It was unbelievably fun, and if you go to ICFA, you have to go to the flash plays. It should be required for everyone. I haven’t laughed that much in a long time. The best part is that the authors themselves are also the actors, so I got to watch Max Gladstone pretend to be drunk, declare himself a sensualist, and then get into a mock sword fight and accidentally break his sword.

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Staveley sat next to me during the play, and after, invited me to come out to the balcony to hang out and chat with people. He introduced me to several people, including his editor, Marco Palmieri. (Who also sorta knew who I was from Twitter!) I really appreciated the introductions, and got a bit outside of my comfort zone, talking to new people and stuff. It was a good experience.

Saturday started off with a very special signing. Staveley was there, signing none other than Skullsworn, his next book. His editor had them printed 2 weeks earlier than normal just so he would have copies for ICFA, and I was unbelievably excited to be able to pick up a copy early, and have Staveley AND Palmieri sign it.

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(Yes, there is actually a picture with me prominently in it. That’s how excited I was.)

I know I went to several other interesting panels that day, but the only one that sticks in my mind was the last one–a humor panel featuring Max Gladstone and Andy Duncan. It was, well, humorous.

The day ended with one final dinner, with more free books (eep), and then a party out on the terrace, where I got to talk to several more people, make more connections, and even talk to Staveley a bit more. We got him to agree to do an interview for our blog when Skullsworn is released, so look for that in a few weeks!

Travelling home was… A chore. We visited the free table every day, the bookseller’s room at least twice, and picked up books at the luncheon and the dinner. We had to transport all of this back to Austin.

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Yes, the boxes are also full of books. Mostly the books we brought with us to get signed.

I ended up checking a 50.0 pound bag and another that was around 40 lbs. I likely carried another 40-50 pounds around the airport, between my backpack and the overloaded tote bag I was using. Shannon was also carrying a bag of books, and put as many as she could fit into her carry-on luggage.

All of the books (and people) made it home safely, but I think that next time, I’m going to go ahead and ship back a box of books. Getting everything through the airport and home was backbreaking, and after a long weekend (I was up really late Friday and Saturday night forcing myself to be sociable), I would have liked a slightly easier trip home.

I did manage to read all of Skullsworn on the trip back (I finished Closed and Common Orbit sometime during the conference), and absolutely loved it. Having a good book to enthrall me on both legs of the journey made the travel seem so much shorter than it actually was.

All in all, ICFA was a great experience, and meeting Brian by surprise definitely made it exceed all of my expectations. My takeaways from the con would be this:

  • The panels are all pretty great, and don’t be afraid to try out some of the more interesting ones.
  • The readings are awesome too, especially if you go and watch authors who read with voices, and have any kind of acting background.
  • Go to all the luncheons and dinners. You’re not saving much money regardless because the restaurants around the hotel are so expensive, and you get really good food, plus free books, and it’s a great opportunity to network.
  • Don’t forget to check the free tables, and check them often. If you’re the kind of person who will pick up books on a whim, or has a long list of books you want, expect to bring a lot of books home, and likely need to ship some of them.
  • The flash plays are required.
  • Don’t be afraid to hang out with the cool people and talk to them. They weren’t at all afraid to talk to me. 🙂

I’m not sure if my schedule will allow me to go back next year, but I definitely enjoyed my trip this year. Thanks to everyone who put this conference together and made it such a memorable experience!

Great Expectations (NOT the book)

You know those days that are supposed to be the most awesome days ever, the ones that you anticipate for weeks or even months, waiting and hoping, knowing it’s going to be awesome, and then you’re let down, not by the day, which was actually pretty good, but by your expectations, which were too high?

Today was not one of those days.

I’ve been looking forward to meeting Brandon Sanderson ever since he took over the Wheel of Time and I picked up Mistborn and enjoyed it. Since then, he has become my favorite author. I stalk him like most people do celebrities, always watching his Twitter, Facebook, blog, and so on. I also listen to his podcast, Writing Excuses, as well as pretty much any video on Youtube that he’s in, and any interview with him. A few months ago, he announced that he was making a stop in Austin, and I was so excited!

Well, that was today. Let me give you a run-down of the events that transpired today.

I live about two miles from the location of the signing, now. I was bringing 24 books with me, and taking 32 back, so I caught a bus, then walked about four blocks downtown to the convention center where the festival was being held.

Once there, I purchased the 8 new books (The festival had a policy of buy 1 book for every 3 personal copies you brought to be signed. I adhered to it, even though it was on the honor system.) and then met up with the person who used to baby-sit me when I was a kid. Like, a little kid, and I’m 21 now. Talk about a blast from the past.

I ate brunch at the dorm cafe before I left, because you’re not allowed outside food or drink in the convention center. Their water was $3.25, and I stopped looking before I freaked out over how much the food was. I didn’t buy anything all day from the concession stand. It’s not like I could, anyway. After buying all of the books, I’m pretty much out of money until I get a job.

I went to Brandon’s panel, but I’ll come back to that at the end. After his panel, I went to another panel with Cinda Williams Chima (and various other authors.). The mood of the second panel was much lighter and more fun than the first one, and I enjoyed it quite a lot. After the panels, I went downstairs and got all of my non-Sanderson books signed, including the other 6 that I bought that day, so I got to meet 5 new authors, and get my books by all of them personalized. That was awesome, in and of itself. Before today, I had never met a published author, and now I’ve met several. It was fantastic.

I’ve been a fan of Chima for a long time, and I have all of her books. While signing my stack, she made the comment, while looking at one of them, that “This is an old edition. You’ve been a fan for a long time, haven’t you?” That made me so happy, because yes, I have. I got a copy of The Enchanter Heir, which isn’t out until October 1st, so technically it’s an advance copy, though it’s the final thing, just released a little early, not an ARC. I’ll be reading that as soon as I can, though I will definitely not be finishing it until copies are legally released. This is a picture of me with Chima, and my stack of her books in front.

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Okay, enough about the other authors. Seeing them was fun, and it would have made for a good day anyway. But that wasn’t the real reason I went. Today, I met Brandon Sanderson. I saw his panel. He was on a panel with 5 other authors, but spent the majority of the time talking, and I don’t think anyone minded at all. I didn’t learn much new about him, other than that the thing he wants most in the future is a hover-board, and he’s annoyed that engineers haven’t designed one yet.

After the panel, while the authors went back to the green room, Sanderson went out into the hallway and signed books and chatted with fans. He said that he would just spend the hour doing nothing, and then sign the books later, or he could sign them now, and be done earlier at the official signing, so he chose to sign them now. His assistants asked him several times if he wanted to leave, and he declined each time, saying that he was perfectly fine, and quite enjoying himself, which he really looked like he was.

I brought with me the 3 Wheel of Time books he finished, 2 anthologies he is part of, and 13 of his novels, and 1 novella. I waited until the crowd has dispersed, because I had so many books, which basically means I allowed everyone else to cut in front of me. I then got my picture taken with him, and he signed all (19) of the books, personalizing every one except the anthologies. While he was signing, he chatted with me for a good 10-15 minutes, answering my questions and just, in general, being an incredibly nice guy. Below are a few pictures. The first is of my stack of books, now that I’m back. On the left are Sanderson’s books, as is the top book on the right-hand stack. The three GRRM books and the two above those did not get taken to the festival today, and are the only ones not signed. The bottom six books are Chima’s, which I got signed, and above that are all of my new books. (Chima’s latest book is right under Steelheart.)

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Here is Sanderson on his panel. My first proof that he is indeed a real person, and not just a fictional front for 5 other authors, who occasionally make videos to fool fans.IMG_5305

And here is me, with A MEMORY OF LIGHT!!!, signed by Sanderson.

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Oh, and Sanderson gave me a Steel-hunt code for having the most books of anyone that day, and said he would send me something else, which I’ll talk about once I get it. Not only did I get all of my books signed, as I expected, I also got to talk to my hero and get some special extras. I went expecting just the signatures, and that that would be awesome. I ended up with so much more! I went with high expectations. They were exceeded in every way!

I can now cross, if not number one, one of the top ten things off of my bucket list. Today was, quite likely, the best day of my life.

Now I’m going to go read Steelheart. I might get some sleep tonight, but who knows?